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Discovering Mr. X: Chapter 16

TANNER

“What business was so important that you had to fly over for a meeting then?” Rachel asks me as we take a stroll back toward her hotel.

“We’ve got a hotel refurb going on. It’s only small. They want their function space re-done—ballroom, bar, restrooms, that sort of thing. It’s only a three-month project.”

“Pah! Could do it in one,” she says.

I glance at her and see the hint of a smile. “Yes, of course, I should have known to expect that from the ‘I’ll paint the entire house by myself’ superwoman.” I chuckle.

She smiles properly, and I’m struck by how beautiful she looks right now. Her barriers are ever so slowly creeping down and giving me these breath-taking glimpses, teasers. Mom was right, it might take time, but God, will it be worth it.

“If only I’d known what I was letting myself in for, letting the guy who owns Grayson Designs into my house.” She arches an eyebrow at me.

Shit.

I meant to tell her. I really had. But how do you casually bring up in conversation that you own a multi-million-pound hotel re-modeling business without sounding like a total dick?

“Why didn’t you tell me who you are?” she asks calmly. Although, from what I’ve learned about her, this could be a smokescreen for the fire that could follow.

“I didn’t think it mattered. You thought I was a smug wanker to start with, anyway.” I glance at her. “Why add more ammo by telling you how successful my business is?”

“Yeah, then you’d have been a smug wanker show-off,” she says. “Still, it would have been nice to know that about you before finding it out myself on the flight paperwork.”

I look at her face, completely free of any emotion. I just can’t tell how pissed about it she really is. Hang on. Why would she be pissed? She knew I had a successful business, just not to what extent. It’s a minor detail surely, unless…

“You’re upset that I didn’t tell you, aren’t you?” I say, grabbing her arm and pulling her up to the side of the building we are passing so that people can walk past. I’m standing straight in front of her now, and her eyes are burning into mine.

“No,” she starts, annoyed.

“I’m sorry, Rachel. I’m sorry if you felt I wasn’t honest with you.” I hold her gaze. She cares; I can see it in her eyes. She wouldn’t be bothered otherwise. I feel a small tug of triumph in my stomach and can’t help a slight smile growing on my lips.

“In case you haven’t already noticed, I don’t care what you do or don’t do!” she fires back harshly, glaring at me. “Am I amusing you?” she says, stepping closer and taking in my small smile.

“No, Rachel.” My smile drops as I feel the briefest flash of anger threatening to spill out suddenly. Why does she keep pretending? Is the thought of caring about me really that repulsive to her? “Why would I be amused by you telling me you don’t care? After all, I’ve heard it all before. You don’t do relationships, you just have fuck buddies, you’re incapable of having actual feelings, why should we be any different?” I hiss.

Her eyes widen, and her mouth falls open as she takes a step back from me.

Shit, what have I done?

“Rachel, I didn’t mean—” I reach out for her, but the sight of her wild eyes makes me freeze.

“Fuck you, Tanner Grayson,” she says, her voice thick with hurt. And with that, she turns and storms off down the street.


It’s been hours, and she won’t answer my calls. She’s not at her hotel. I’ve sat here in the bar, watching the entrance for what feels like a lifetime. I’ve really fucked up. How could I say that to her? That she’s incapable of having actual feelings? What kind of asshole am I? I don’t even know what came over me. I just felt so angry when she said she didn’t care what I did or didn’t do. I know she’s lying. I could see it in her eyes. She does care, and that my words hurt her so much proves it. Just when I thought we were getting somewhere, and she was starting to open up to me, I fucked it up big time.

“Hey, man, you want another?” The barman nods to my empty glass.

“Sure, why the hell not?”

“Woman trouble?” he asks as he places another whisky down in front of me.

“That obvious, huh?” I swirl the deep honey-colored liquid around in the glass before taking a large gulp. The burn feels good in my throat.

“By the look on your face, yeah, I’m afraid it is,” he says kindly. “They’re on the house.” He gestures to my empty glass.

“Thanks.” I give him a small smile as he goes to serve another customer.

I glance at my watch, six forty-five. This is ridiculous. I can’t sit in the bar all night. If she doesn’t want to speak to me, then I should know by now not to force it. If Rachel doesn’t want to do something, Rachel sure as hell won’t do it.

Fuck, what is it with strong-ass women and me? I get up from the bar and place a generous tip down for the barman. The drinks may be on the house, but he still had to look at my sour face for the last two hours.

As I walk into the lobby, I spot her coming in through the main revolving door. She looks up, and her eyes lock with mine. For a second, I expect her to keep revolving all the way back out onto the street to avoid me. She doesn’t, though. Instead, she walks right over to me.

“Rachel—” I start, but she holds up a hand and cuts me off.

“Please, let me go first,” she says.

I shut my mouth and wait.

“I would like to reimburse you for the time you spent at the house, painting,” she says coolly.

She seems so in control, her voice steady. The only small sign that she’s feeling uncomfortable is the subtle scratching of her wrist that she’s doing without realizing.

“There’s no need. I wanted to help you,” I say carefully. Where is she going with this?

“That would imply that we are friends. And seeing as I am incapable of having actual feelings, then I don’t see how that can be the case,” she says flatly, her eyes trained on mine.

“I should never have said that.” I search her eyes. “I am so sorry, Rachel,” I whisper.

I can feel the hurt radiating from her towards me. I don’t know all of her story, but I know that it’s made it hard for her to trust and to be open. I’ve come along and thrown it in her face and basically called her fucked up. She was right to keep me at arm’s length; I am a wanker.

“Maybe not, but it doesn’t matter now. You said it, and you’re probably right.” Her gaze falters as she swallows.

“I’m not right. I’m an asshole,” I say, inching closer to her, so we are almost touching. She doesn’t move away. “I know you are very capable of feeling. I’ve seen it with Megan and Matt, and when you talk about Holly. I’ve seen it when you talk about that furry beast, Nigel.” I take a gamble and reach forward, so the back of my hand brushes against hers. She sucks in a small breath as our skin meets. “You are more than capable of feeling, Rachel, and if you don’t care about me, then that’s because I don’t deserve you to.”

“There’s a lot about me you don’t know, Tan,” she says, her voice quiet.

“Then tell me. When you’re ready,” I say, fighting back the urge to wrap her in my arms. I don’t want to push my luck. I’m just grateful she’s even talking to me right now.

She nods as though she’s considering my words before looking away towards the lifts. I sense this conversation is over—for now.

“Will you have dinner with me tonight? Please?” I add, as she frowns. She stays quiet for a long time, still not looking at me, before finally she answers.

“Okay. Wait here while I change.” She brings her eyes back to me.

I nod and watch her walk off and press the lift button. Knowing she doesn’t want me to go up to her room with her stings. But I’m grateful she will even speak to me after my colossal fuck up.

Right now, I will take whatever I can get.


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